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Nevada Chamber Music Fest Boasts Heavy-Hitter Lineup

December 14, 2016

After Christmas, most musical institutions may take a few days off until New Year’s. But not the Reno Chamber Orchestra — they’re launching the latest edition of their chamber music festival, Dec. 26–Jan. 1. And the founder and director of the festival, Theodore Kuchar (who California residents may have heard of from his tenure at the Fresno Philharmonic) has pulled together a few friends who make the festival newsworthy by themselves.

The musicians include soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian, Berlin Philharmonic concertmaster Noah Bendix-Balgey, Los Angeles Philharmonic concertmaster Martin Chalifour, Czech Philharmonic concertmaster Josef Špaček, violist Che-Yen Chen of the Formosa Quartet (he won first prize in the 2003 Primrose competition also), cellist Clive Greensmith (recently retired from the Tokyo String Quartet), and many more.

So how did Kuchar pull together this all-star lineup? Well, the man has had a long and very busy career. Besides his Fresno years (2002–14), he was the founder of the well-established Australian Chamber Music Festival, directed orchestras in Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Ukraine, and had extensive gigs with orchestras from Venezuela to Cape Town to London, and participated in a variety of recordings (over 100, claims his standard bio.) Have baton, will travel (a lot).

“I’m very lucky and blessed that musical activities have allowed me to develop these wonderful friendships and alliances,” Kuchar says. The best thing about the festival is that these musicians are not just soloing, but playing together in various chamber formations. “From the second concert onward, it is strictly chamber music. All of these people, they all sit as equal colleagues, as partners in crime, playing great chamber music.”

“Quite often, in an orchestral situation, musicians tend to lose their individuality or creativity because it’s largely monopolized by a central figure who is waving a baton,” explains Kuchar. “Or when you are teaching, when you are not as creative because you are passing down your experience — chamber music is the one medium of making great music when you have the individuality of a great soloist but you benefit from the concept of collaboration, which great music cannot exist without. And ultimately, all of these people are enticed by the idea of playing so much great music, which throughout the year they cannot. And the other attraction is playing alongside such a combination of colleagues, people they know about through the profession but would not otherwise have the possibility of collaborating with.”

Almost certainly, these concerts are already on the radar of local music aficionados. But this is clearly a festival to know about if you’re within day-trip distance or want someplace appealing for a weekend getaway during the runup to the New Year.

Michael Zwiebach is the senior editor/ content manager for SFCV. He assigns all articles and content, manages the writing staff and does editing. A member of SFCV from the beginning, Michael holds a Ph.D. in music history from the University of California, Berkeley.